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TULSA Jail warden believes mistaken releases not out of line in big facility

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The warden of the Tulsa Jail believes two well-publicized mistaken releases at the facility aren't out of line, considering the number of prisoners housed there.

Warden Jim Cooke concedes the incidents are a problem for Corrections Corporation of America, but he doesn't think a county official's recommendation to fine the Nashville, Tenn., company is a good idea.

``Commissioner (Bob) Dick is an elected official of this county,'' Cooke said. ``He has to do what he thinks is right for the citizens of this county, which I am one. As for me at CCA, no I don't think that's right.''

CCA had four bad releases out of 35,000 last year, Cooke said.

``To me, I wish it were zero, but that's not bad at all. I mean, do you know anybody who repairs 35,000 cars and only has four call back?''

Cooke is scheduled to meet Monday with Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority members John Selph and Dick and the authority's legal counsel, Jim Orbison.

``Hopefully, we can come to an agreement,'' said Dick, who has recommended that tougher action be taken against the jail for its recent mistakes and overall record of nine to 10 mistaken releases since the jail opened in August 1999. Both Dick and Selph have said they think a fine is warranted.

They also have recommended that CCA meet regularly with law enforcement and court officials to improve communications and address concerns.

The May releases of two men led to the dismissal of booking supervisor Andrew Roberts.

Roberts had been on suspension for his involvement in the May 29 mistaken release of Clifford Meano when it was discovered that Donald A. Manning had been let go in error May 24.

``You had an employee who made a human error on two different people, and it just happened,'' Cooke said.

Roberts also was formally reprimanded along with two other employees last July following the mistaken release of a juvenile offender who had been arrested on a complaint of assaulting an employee.

Roberts, who had been with CCA since 1996, claimed that a lack of training in reading court documents played a part in his mistakes.

``I may be kind of slow, dumb and from the country, but if you process 1,800 people and you only make two errors, you must be pretty good,'' Cooke said. ``You must have had training some way or wouldn't you think it would be just the reverse?''

The Court Clerk's Office is training one of CCA's dayshift booking supervisors on how to interpret court documents. CCA booking supervisors also will be going over past releases with those handled by Roberts.

CCA is holding booking supervisors solely responsible for any bad releases.

Cooke said that since the Tulsa Jail opened, about 65,000 people have been released. He said any department with that kind of volume would have had some bad releases.

``I don't care whether it's the LAPD or wherever, if you release that many people, you're going to have some bad releases,'' Cooke said.

Cooke said he plans on meeting with the authority as well as judges and law enforcement officials to come up with solutions that will make the system work better, but that there is nothing he can do to completely eliminate human errors.
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